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Gay couples get married after landmark ruling lifts bans

AUSTIN, Texas -- Gay couples in Texas started receiving marriage licenses Friday within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling they had the right to wed. But many counties kept couples waiting, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he would take action to protect what he called religious liberties.

In Austin, the first marriage license was issued to Gena Dawson and Charlotte Rutherford, a couple of 22 years who planned to have a wedding later Friday after finding a judge to waive the usual three-day waiting period.

They were among dozens of gay couples across Texas and other states who rushed to government offices after the Supreme Court decision wiped out state bans on same-sex marriage. The court's 5-4 ruling affected 14 states in the South and Midwest.

In Alabama, a supervisor in Mobile County's probate court, Russ Davidson, said the court issued its first same-sex marriage license to two women after months of refusing to sell marriage licenses to anyone.

"We are open for business for anyone who wants to get married," Davidson said.

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But other counties resisted.

Pike County Probate County Judge Wes Allen said he was "deeply saddened" by the Supreme Court's decision and said he won't issue licenses to anyone, gay or straight.

Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin said he was issuing marriage licenses to straight people but not gays because he hadn't seen the Supreme Court's decision yet.

"Today we are selling to heterosexual couples and giving our attorney time to digest this opinion," said Martin, whose rural county in central Alabama votes heavily Republican. "The decision will be made at 10 a.m. Monday what to do."

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Alabama law says counties "may" issue marriage licenses rather than requiring them to do so outright. Some probate judges stopped issuing any licenses after a federal judge in Mobile ruled in favor of gay marriage earlier this year.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange didn't provide legal guidance to counties. He said in a news release the decision overturned centuries of marriage tradition, but conceded that the Supreme Court had the final say absent a change to the U.S. Constitution.

In Georgia, multiple gay couples received marriage licenses, Fulton County Probate Court Clerk James Brock said. One of those couples, Petrina Bloodworth and Emma Foulkes, was married in a ceremony Friday morning right after receiving their license. They were the first gay couple to be married in Fulton County.

"I'm just ecstatic right now. I can't believe it finally happened," Bloodworth said after a judge performed their ceremony.

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"Our cheeks are going to be hurting tomorrow because we've been smiling constantly the last few hours," Foulkes said.

Similar scenes were seen in Ohio and Tennessee.

In Houston, where a lesbian mayor oversees the nation's fourth-largest city, marriage licenses were being prepared after the Harris County clerk reversed himself and said he would no longer wait on state approval.

"I never thought this would happen in my lifetime," said Jacque Roberts, who rushed into the Travis County clerk's office with her partner of 31 years within minutes of the ruling. "It's still a dream. I can't believe we're doing this in Texas."

In Dallas, four same-sex couples were in line for a marriage license even before the Supreme Court decision. When it came down, someone screamed, "We got it!"

CBS DFW reports among the couples were Jack Evans and George Harris, who have been together for about 55 years and had a ceremony performed last year.

"I can finally go home and tell my family," Evans joked, according to CBS DFW.

George Harris, left, and Jack Evans are seen in Dallas June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
George Harris, left, and Jack Evans are seen in Dallas June 26, 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. CBSDFW.COM

Couples hugged and cried and the owners of Red Pegasus Games & Comics in Dallas arrived after leaving a sign for customers that said they might be opening a little late "because we're waiting at the courthouse to see if the Supreme Court is going to let us get married."

None of the same-sex couples now receiving licenses will be technically the first to marry in Texas. Earlier this year, a state judge ordered Travis County to issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple, who then wed before Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton had a chance to intervene.

Abbott was somewhat defiant as he expressed his disappointment with the ruling. He said he planned to issue a directive to state agencies later Friday that would instruct them to "prioritize the protection of Texans' religious liberties." It was not immediately clear what that would entail, but Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said his clerks could not refuse a marriage license to a gay couple over religious objections.

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"Despite the Supreme Court's rulings, Texans' fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected," Abbott said. "No Texan is required by the Supreme Court's decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage."

Paxton urged county clerks this week to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until hearing from his office, and many in Texas were doing just that. More than two hours after the ruling, Paxton had yet issue any guidance. In counties where marriage licenses were being issued, county officials said Paxton lacked the power to stop them.

Texas was not part of the case before the Supreme Court. A federal judge in 2013 ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but declined to enforce the ruling while it was on appeal.

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